The symptoms of a heart attack can vary from person to person but if sure that a heart attack is occurring, every second counts. The problem is that when people experience the symptoms, they don’t know how to react or what to do. They think that they may just be having indigestion and so to avoid possible embarrassment, they fail to call emergency services.
According the HeartUK, somebody in the UK will have a heart attack every 7 seconds. Many of those will not seek medical attention leading to a higher rate of death. Even though a heart attack can be deadly, tens of thousands of people survive heart attacks every year.
What is it?
A heart attack occurs when there is a blockage in the coronary arteries. It is these major blood vessels that deliver oxygen-rich blood to the heart. Lack of blood and oxygen can cause heart muscle to die. The sooner you receive medical help, the more likely you will prevent or minimize damage to the heart. Once heart muscle dies, it cannot grow back or be repaired.
Symptoms of a Heart Attack
The most common symptom of a heart attack is pain in the chest. It may feel like pressure, tightness, squeezing, or an aching sensation. The pain may radiate into the neck, arms, back, jaw, or stomach. There is no single way that a heart attack may progress. It can start slowly and be mild, or it can come on suddenly and be intense. Some patients don’t even experience pain at all.
The symptoms also usually vary between men and women. Men typically experience a heart attack as chest pain. While women may also have pain, they’re more likely to have one or more of these other symptoms:
- Nausea, indigestion, heartburn, or abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
People experiencing a heart attack, especially those with diabetes, will often feel tired and fatigued. If you experience any symptoms that are not normal, you should seek medical attention immediately. Failure to do so could lead to more serious heart damage.
Defibrillators are being put up in many public areas now. These are the kind of device that EMS workers use to revive people who are experiencing heart attacks. If you’re still conscious at the onset of your heart attack, instruct someone nearby to find the closest defibrillator. Defibrillators come with easy-to-use instructions, so it’s possible for a non-EMS worker to revive you if the heart attack strikes.
Who’s At Risk?
The top three risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Other factors include:
- Men over 45 and women over 55
- Family history
- being sedentary or obese
- Stress, and
- Illegal drug use
Although some risk factors can’t be controlled, some most certainly can. Take the following steps where possible:
- Stop smoking and minimize your exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Modifying your diet, losing weight, taking medication, or doing a combination of these things can get your high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure under control.
- Keep physically active.
- Keep your weight under control.
- If you have diabetes, take care by sticking to your treatment plan and managing your blood sugar.
- Get a handle on the stress in your life by practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or yoga, or try talk therapy.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Consume a healthy and balanced diet, rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals.
What Will Happen at the Hospital?
The top priority at the hospital is to prevent clotting, relieve chest pain, and restore blood flow to the heart. This usually involves the use of clot-busting medication or drugs that ease stress on the heart.
In addition to an EKG, emergency room physicians have numerous ways to evaluate the scope of your heart attack. An echocardiogram, for example, uses sound waves to produce an image of your heart. Imaging techniques, such as a chest x-ray or CT scan (computerized tomography), provide pictures of your heart and blood vessels.
Once the immediate danger is under control, your physician may recommend additional procedures to restore as much heart and circulatory function as possible. You may need a stent, or wire mesh tube, in your blocked vessel to hold it open so blood can flow freely. A surgeon may replace a damaged part of your artery with a piece of healthy blood vessel from another part of your body, known as a coronary artery bypass.
Recovering from a Heart Attack
The time it takes to recover from a heart attack will vary as it depends upon the amount of damage that has been caused to the heart muscle. Some people are well enough to return to work after two weeks. Other people may take several months to recover.
The recovery process aims to:
- Reduce your risk of another heart attack – through a combination of lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, and medications, such as statins (which help lower blood cholesterol levels)
- Gradually restore your physical fitness – so you can resume normal activities (known as cardiac rehabilitation)
- Call 999 or 911 if in the US
- Stay as calm and still as possible
- If you’re not allergic, take an aspirin to help prevent clotting. You can help this to get in your blood stream faster by chewing it
- Try not to get chilled as this constricts the blood vessels
- Keep calm until help arrives.
There are many websites that offer “fast” heart attack treatments but do not trust these. There is no fast way of stopping a heart attack.
If you enjoyed reading this post, check out how to survive a stroke